Q: My girlfriend and I know we want to be together long-term. But we both grew up in broken homes, and we dread the thought of divorce if things go sour. It seems safer to just live together. We know other couples who seem happy with that approach, so why shouldn’t we do the same?
A: It saddens us that so many people think the best way to avoid the pain of divorce is to skip marriage entirely. They say they don’t need a wedding ring or a piece of paper to prove they’re in love.
Living together outside of marriage is nothing new, so there’s plenty of research available to help determine if skipping the wedding really helps couples stay together. We think there are solid moral arguments against cohabitating. But even for those who don’t share that worldview, the weight of the evidence shows that the odds are against couples who don’t make a formal commitment to one another. Studies also indicate that cohabitating undermines the chances of future marital success.
It’s not feelings of love that makes a marriage endure, but commitment. Every relationship will encounter ups and downs, and there may even be times when the two of you don’t like each other very much. One study showed that married couples are ten times more likely to stay together through difficult stretches than those who cohabitate.
Married couples are also happier on average. That’s because a thriving commitment helps husbands and wives feel safe with each other, and that enables them to build deeper love and intimacy. As the song says: “put a ring on it.” If you really want to avoid the pain of divorce, the answer isn’t to skip marriage
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